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Are Beagles Smart? – Here’s Why They’re Ranked Low For Dog Intelligence

If you’re considering keeping a Beagle, you probably already know that they’re affectionate and friendly dogs with an incredible nose! And many owners will claim they often wander off into trouble. But does this actually mean that Beagles aren’t intelligent?

So, are Beagles smart? Beagles are the 131st smartest dog breeds for obedience & working intelligence. But, this doesn’t mean Beagles are dumb. Rather, they have different motivators that don’t fit with the standardized test criteria for measuring dog intelligence. What actually makes the Beagle smart is their instinctive IQ in locating scents, which explains why they’re some of the world’s best tracking dogs.

If you know how Beagles operate, they’re actually incredibly intelligent dogs with a very specialized skillset. For example, they’re some of the best (if not the best) scent hounds in the world. Let’s examine why these dogs are smarter than you think.

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Why Beagles Rank Low in Dog Intelligence

Why are Beagles listed as one of the 10 least intelligent dog breeds?

You may have already seen the list of the least intelligent dog breeds and noticed the Beagle on that list. If not, you can check it out here. But before you start making any assumptions about the Beagle, hear us out. 

How accurate is this smart breeds ranking conducted by famed psychologist Stanley Coren? Though we think it’s a good starting point for measuring a dog’s intelligence, it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The list of intelligent dog breeds is based on just one component of dog intelligence, that is, obedience & working IQ. However, there’s so much more to dog intelligence than just working & obedience. It’s why there are clear flaws with his test (as we’ll point out in this article).

The Problem: Standardized Dog Intelligence Tests

When it comes to dogs, it’s extremely difficult to create a “standardized” test to measure the intelligence of these animals. As we mentioned, different dog breeds have different motivators.

Some breeds, such as the Border Collie or German Shepherd, will work for the sake of working. They live to work, whether it’s obedience tests, herding or guarding and protecting. However, this simply is not the case with all dog breeds – especially with the Beagle.

With that said, it’s important to understand the criteria in which Coren used for his trials: 

  1. The first criterion is the number of repetitions it took for a dog breed to learn a new command. Fewer repetitions means a smarter dog, according to Coren.
  2. His second criterion is the success rate that the dog obeys a known command on the first try. Higher success rates mean a more intelligent and obedient dog breed.

To standardize a test based off these two criteria is not fair for many dog breeds. In reality, these trials seem more like an obedience test than an intelligence test. Furthermore, not all dog breeds will be as responsive to obeying an unfamiliar handler.

Just because a dog doesn’t obey a known command doesn’t mean the dog doesn’t know what you’re saying. This is exactly the case with the Beagle. These dogs aren’t as biddable as other dog breeds, but it has little to do with how smart they actually are.

The Beagles’ Personality Affected Their Intelligence Test

Though Beagles can be affectionate and friendly, they are also curious and independent dogs. Sometimes, they can also be quite stubborn. As a result, not all Beagles will want to obey your commands “just because” you tell them to or expect them to.

However, this doesn’t mean they’re not trainable – many owners claim they’re quite easy to train if done right. It’s just that Beagles just value their own priorities over yours. However, that doesn’t mean that they don’t love you, as the owner.

Primo, my Beagle doesn’t always listen…but really, I think he’s just always in his own world and will come out whenever he wants.

– Andrew C.

While they are affectionate and loyal with their owners, Beagles are also independent thinkers. In other words, their whole lives don’t revolve around the obedience training and following commands. The ability to think independent of their owners is more likely a sign of intelligence than unintelligence.

Again, this doesn’t mean Beagles don’t love you. They’re really loving dogs and love being with people. It’s just that Beagles are smart enough to think for themselves.

Reasons Why Beagles Are Smart

There’s a lot more to dog intelligence is more than just obedience and work-ethic. The problem is that this particular dimension of intelligence is the easiest to objectively measure with dogs. Even Coren, the scientist that is credited for these dog intelligence trials, admits this.

According to Stanley Coren, there are two other dimensions of dog intelligence, including adaptive and instinctive intelligence. Both of which, are just as important identifying intelligence in dogs. But unlike obedience & working intelligence, these are more difficult to measure.

That said, here’s why Beagles are actually more intelligent than you think.

The Hunter’s Intelligence in Beagles

Instinctive intelligence refers to the innate ability or skill that a breed was bred for. This is where the Beagle truly shines. But what exactly is it and why is it a type of intelligence?

For example, Australian Shepherds were bred to herd livestock on farms all over the world. This unique ability to push a flock of sheep without additional human training requires a special type of intelligence we cannot ignore. They were born with this ability.

Likewise, Beagles were bred to hunt with their nose. As a matter of fact, the Beagle arguably has the best nose in the canine kingdom. According to Pet Central, Beagles are in the top three for best sense of smell – along with the Bloodhound and Basset Hound. 

For reference, humans have 5 million scent receptors in the nose. On the other hand, Beagles have 220 million scent receptors! What’s more impressive is the fact they have roughly 44 times more than ours.

Not only do they have an amazing nose, but Beagles also have an un-matched skill in locating and differentiating all types of odors. This in itself is a special intelligence. They can do this (and will do it) without any human training.

The Beagle’s nose is what actually what fuels their curiosity for all things in life. If you were getting so many unique odors on a daily basis, wouldn’t you be curious and want to explore the odor too?

You can probably imagine all the different types of scents that the Beagle encounters throughout their day. With so many distractions, it could be a big reason why they can’t “focus” on obedience training.

Instead of following commands, a Beagle might be more focused on figuring out where an intriguing smell is coming from. For this reason, they’re some of the best hunters, trackers, TSA dogs, health inspection dogs and more! 

The Beagle’s Adaptive Intelligence

On the other hand, adaptive intelligence refers to the ability of the dog to learn for itself. Though all individual dogs in a breed have similar instinctive intelligence, adaptive intelligence can vary greatly.

Beagles are generally good at problem solving and highly capable of learning from previous mistakes. Both of these are clear signs of high adaptive intelligence in this breed.

The problem is that adaptive intelligence may be the most difficult component of dog intelligence to measure. We have to rely on owner anecdotes to gauge this type of IQ. The good news is that there are plenty of owners that can confirm Beagles have high adaptive intelligence.

A Beagle owner, tells us:

My Beagle is great at communicating with us. I would say as many words until I say what she wants. Then she’ll dance in excitement to tell me that’s it!”

– Debra K. (Beagle Owner)

Beagles are also fantastic at communicating with humans. When a dog and its owner are great at communicating with one another, it means that the dog has learned how to communicate with and understand humans. And of course, Debra’s Beagle is doing just that.

She continues by saying,

I can be on the other side of the house putting on sunscreen to get ready for a walk. And by the time I finish, she’s already waiting by the door. I’m not sure if i’m more impressed by her nose or smarts.

– Debra K. (Beagle Owner)

In this next example, Debra also mentioned how her Beagle is able to take cues for her environment. After a few times of putting on lotion before a walk, Debra’s Beagle was able to make the connection. This is learning from past experiences, hence, adaptive intelligence.

Sure, these are just a few examples of adaptive intelligence in Beagles. However, there are tons of stories just like these. Ask a Beagle owner and you’re sure to hear many similar stories.

Is Your Beagle Smart?

The best way to really gauge how smart Beagles are is by asking the owners – the people that engage and interact with these dogs on a daily basis.

So, we surveyed the popular Beagle Subreddit (and other dog forums) to ask real Beagle owners for answers to this question. Here’s what they had to say to the question.

Real Owner Answers

1. Kissology says Yes:One of my beagles is smart…too smart. He figured out how to open the refrigerator and has done it twice this week. I now have to get child safely locks for my refrigerator.”

2. Wampafleas says Yes:Been there, my beagle is the reason I have child locks on the oven, refrigerator, dishwasher, and pantry. I actually had to put two locks on the dishwasher, because he figured out how to get the first one off.”

3. Theycallmemiriam says No:My beagle Jasper tries, but he’s not super bright.

4. Euro-canuk says Yes:My beagle does basically the opposite of what i want her to do most of the time. But it’s not because she’s dumb, it’s because she’s smart enough to know she can get away with it and still do whatever she wants.”

5. Beaglescout15 says Yes:My first beagle, Scout, was one of the most intelligent animals I’ve ever met. She figured out how to lure people away from their food far enough so that she could run back and grab it before the person could get there.

6. M_trotsky says Mixed:My beagle does what he is told and will listen to commands extremely well, so you would assume was smart… but he is not that intelligent!”

7. Grrrr1877 says No:Well, I sometimes feel my beagle is dumb as a bag of bricks…

8. Northsidebill1 says Yes:Be careful. Beagles are smart enough to fool their humans into thinking they are complete windowlickers. Mine had me fooled for a while and then I figured her out.”

9. Doxiewrangler says No:She regularly forgets how to beagle and slams into walls, the sides of couches, the sliding glass door and her kennel multiple times a day. Its part of her charm, lol.”

10. Gmazing23 says Yes:Okay, my 9 year old beagle, Joey, is fairly smart, at least from my family’s view. He can signal when he wants something specific by scratching, whining, or looking. He can tell when someone is feeling down, and loves everyone.”

11. Monica says Yes:As a beagle owner I can tell you that beagles are very very smart dogs. My puppy can learn a new trick in 1 training session.”

12. Samantha says Yes:I have had rough collies (like Lassie) and right now we have a border collie and a beagle. The beagle is By FAR the most intelligent dog I’ve ever owned.”

Are Beagles For Me?

Why do you need a dog that’s considered smart by the “experts?” There’s really no reason to pick a dog breed based solely on their intelligence. In fact, I would argue that you don’t really need a dog that’s too smart.

All dogs, including Beagles, are capable of obedience training and learning basic commands.

The priorities of the Beagle may be very different from the priorities of dog owners. Obeying the sit, stay, roll over or come commands is not particularly important to these dogs.

As a Beagle owner, you need to understand this and accept them for who they are. This is their personality and there’s not much you can do about it.

If you want a dog breed that’s always eager to please and will do anything and everything for you, try a dog breed like the Golden Retriever instead.   

When owners say their dog is smart, what they’re actually saying is that they’re easy to train. Beagles don’t really fit the bill, but saying they’re dumb dogs is very unfair. They can sometimes be more intelligent than the people who own them. 

Most people raise dogs for companionship, and that’s exactly what owners should be considering. Rather than looking at their intelligence rank, look at their temperament and personality. Does the Beagle’s personality fit yours (and your family’s)? 


Do you own a Beagle? If so, what do you think – is your Beagle smart? Leave a comment in the comments section below to let us know. 

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Lisa Ann Smedy

Friday 13th of August 2021

My name is Lisa Smedy and I have a 4 yr old pure bred beagle her name is daisy and she is really smart that she will tell me when she has to go out..

Clownygirl

Wednesday 28th of July 2021

My Beagle is very smart He treats my husband like his unpaid servant and 'shouts' if not served when he wants as he wants. He is much smarter than my Malinois and GSD mix girl. He is the Alpha @13 years of age. Loves my daughter, knows how to steal stuff by waiting for a single moment of distraction, signals when lost by barking, knocks on doors (scratches), only obeys for food and is super loving. He fell down an open manhole and barked until we found him. He is the best communicator and has figured out which trees in our garden have good tasting bark. He remembers everybody he has ever met, no matter how long ago. Trains my Mali-GSD into licking the dishwasher, opening doors etc. Only thing he hasn't done is open the fridge. But then he doesn't need to, he has his unpaid servant for that!

Dimma

Monday 7th of December 2020

Our Beagle picked up housetraining almost immediately, like pretty much Day 1 of having him (at 12 weeks). He's also very smart when it's in his interest or something he feels like doing. One of the things I love about him is that he's not just blindly obedient, but if you have a good reason for telling him to do something he'll hear you out, carefully consider your request and make a response accordingly! They remind me of cats in that respect, you have to earn their trust and compliance.

Sylvia MacLeod

Friday 20th of November 2020

My 2 yr old Rescue Beagle is definitely very smart and has a fantastic memory. He is quite trainable and will learn a command fairly quickly, but he is also very stubborn and will only execute if he wants to or if there is a very special treat involved. He knows exactly how to get what he wants and will whine or scratch to tell me. He was easily potty trained and in fact has not had a single accident after the first month. The only thing I am having difficulty getting him to learn is to not chew anything leather or anything related to paper, so tissues, books, TP etc have to be out of reach for him. If he comes across something in that category (gloves, belts, purses) or sniffs it out of its hiding place he will stealthily pick it up and casually bring it under the bed to chew on. He knows he’s not supposed to do it (which is why he hides) but he just can’t help himself because he really wants to. No amount of treats or training has worked.....yet. But we’re still trying. He also recognizes many words.....even if they are all said in the same tone or inflection, he still understand exactly.

He’s incredibly affectionate, very quiet and only barks if someone knocks on the door. I’ve had 2 schnauzers, and they are also very smart, but I think Sammie is much smarter. Txs Sylvia

Bruce

Tuesday 29th of September 2020

I have a 5 year old rescue beagle, whose previous owner died apparently without training him. He learned to be housebroken (except for using a pee-pee pad occasionally overnight) right away, as well as basic commands. He also has learned to open the car windows and lock himself in my bedroom when I leave him home alone. His biggest issue is in aggression/barking/biting people he doesn't trust-usually men; and nothing seems to break him of this!